There are so many needful things, all demanding our attention. Does God not hear them? Of course He does, still, if we’re going to cast ourselves into the fray, it helps to know if we’re in the right “fray.”
Corrie Ten Boom was a Christian survivor of the Holocaust, Hitler’s “final solution.” She had this to say about working for Jesus:
“Trying to do the Lord’s work in your own strength is the most confusing, exhausting, and tedious of all work. But when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, then the ministry of Jesus just flows out of you.”Corrie Ten Boom
You or I may pray, “Bless me in this work I’m doing.” But, if we are in the wrong place at the wrong time, doing the wrong thing, then we will find ourselves waiting a long time for God’s blessing. It’s not a matter of doing “good things” or even “great things,” rather it is a matter of doing the “right things.” How else can Jesus say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:23)
“To this John [the Baptist] replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven…” (John 3:27) From my walk with Jesus, the only works that will hold up under God’s inspection are those assignments that I received from Him and did under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Receive What is Given
Take a moment and inspect the work you’ve done. Does it withstand our Lord’s scrutiny?
Many of the works for which I’ve been commended are just chaff that will burn up. Many of the accomplishments which I hold dear will not survive the fire of God. Thankfully, there were times when I didn’t hinder Jesus.
There have been times when a garden of peace sprung up from the work Christ gave me to do. Times when I’ve received a phone call from a long forgotten workmate telling me that they finally accepted Jesus as their Savior. These will withstand God’s inspection; they will not burn up.
“A person can receive only what is given to them.” It’s fruitless to frenetically try to create a ministry. Rather, we must walk in the Spirit, then we will receive the assignments which Jesus calls us to. “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” (Philippians 2:13)
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Come and Dine
Perhaps you’ve never been an outcast or a failure. I sincerely desire that for you. I, on the other hand, have been both. Yet, what I experienced was nothing compared to the people I’ve met. I can’t comprehend how some people can live when they are in abject poverty or outcasts of society or incarcerated in jails or prisons.
The Good News is that Jesus identifies with the failures of the world, people that are outcasts, the last of the least. See what our Lord is saying to us in Matthew 25:34-40
Come, you who are blessed by my Father
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
We learn in verses 41-46 what happens to people that don’t act on behalf of desperately needy people. Those people are rejected by Jesus.
It is marvelous that our Lord, the King of kings, gets His hands dirty. He will reach into anyone’s life that invites Him in. And Jesus will rally His followers to help that person. I was that person, and He did it for me. He will do it for you. And then He will call us to help others in need. How wonderful God is.
Photo by k u on Unsplash
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Rich Mullins was an influential, talented Christian singer/songwriter. It’s been many years since he was killed in an automobile accident. Before his death, he wrote songs that are now standards in Christian music. Songs such as “Awesome God,” “If I Stand,” “Hold Me Jesus,” “Calling Out Your Name,” and my favorite, “Creed.”
One of Rich Mullins’ songs is called, “Everywhere I Go I See You.” It’s a very simple song, unlike many other songs he wrote, but the Lord just laid it on my heart today.
Yes, the world is complicated, full of dissent, lies, and pain. And yes, God is complex. And yes, churches struggle to preach Jesus to a world that doesn’t deny Christ but hates Christ.
Nevertheless, if we look, no matter where we look, we can see God at work. The world hasn’t won the battle. The “Gospel Ship” isn’t shipwrecked. God still answers prayers. God still saves. The Bride of Christ is still listening for her call. Hearts are still open; lives are still changed; fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ is still sweet. God is still good. We, as followers of Jesus, can still sing, “It is well, with my soul.”
I had started a technology company and had a handful of employees. I had bootstrapped the company – no venture capital. At this point, the company was about four years old. I had expensive professional employees. Most held advanced degrees.
We’d experienced steady growth. Never once during those four years had I missed a payroll. God always provided.
One day, close to a payroll, I went through the company’s financials. It looked grim. Even if I didn’t draw a paycheck, there just wasn’t nearly enough to do a partial payroll. All of my cash was tied up with “work-in-progress.” I was deeply concerned, but God had led me to start this business, and He’d never failed me.
On the morning of payday, my company’s cash flow was the worst I’d ever experienced. Realizing this was a watershed moment for the company, I rushed to my church’s office. I asked the pastor and everyone there to join me in prayer for God to overcome this moment that otherwise would harm my staff and crush the company. We prayed. God provided. The payroll was fully met that day.
God Loves You No Less
This crushing financial event in my life is why I relate so strongly to King Hezekiah’s actions when an invading force conspired to crush him and all of Judah. But God miraculously saved him and his people from destruction.
Look at what King Hezekiah did when he heard the threat: Isaiah 37:1 (ESV), “As soon as King Hezekiah heard it, he tore his clothes and covered himself with sackcloth and went into the house of the Lord“
I didn’t tear my clothes or put on sackcloth, but I tore my heart and humbled myself before Father God, and I went to the house of the Lord.
God loves you no less than me. When you are “hard pressed on every side (2 Cor. 4:8),” and all seems lost, tear your heart, run to your church, gather Godly people around you, and pray. God will hear, and you may see inexplicable events unfold, for “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Ps. 46:1).
Many years ago, we were about to have breakfast with some friends when our four-year-old son announced, “We don’t pray over breakfast!” We’ve prayed over breakfast, and all of our meals since then.
The Bible documents several times when Jesus blessed the food before a meal. We see this when Jesus joined two of HIs disciples on the road to Emmaus on the day He arose from the dead. The Scripture states in Luke 24:30, “When He (Jesus) had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them.”
Paul, too, gave us an example of giving thanks before a meal in Acts 27:35 (ESV): And when he (Paul) had said these things, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat.
Before a Meal, I Pray
I spent a large part of my life traveling the world for my work. During those travels, I’ve eaten in some very sketchy places. So I sincerely pray before a meal. I have no doubt these prayers have saved me from significant discomfort. I believe this because of what the Scripture in 1 Timothy 4:4-5 (NLT emphasis added) states, “Since everything God created is good, we should not reject any of it but receive it with thanks. For we know it is made acceptable by the word of God and prayer.“
Whether we “say grace” or “give thanks” or “ask God’s blessing” or “pray” before eating a meal, we are following the example that Jesus established. He set the precedent for us.
A few years ago, after a school reunion, my wife set up a Facebook page for her high school class. There had been a site set up for the reunion, but, since they had all connected on Facebook, she thought she’d try to keep all the classmates connected, till the next one.
On her page, she gives recognition to classmates’ birthdays and other life events and maintains an “In Memoriam” page for members when they pass away. Her classmates seem appreciative of her efforts,
From a Member to a Leader
She built the Facebook site thinking she could be “in the background,” like she’d been at school. Because of how Facebook works, every post she made as the administrator of the site showed up as one of her posts. One classmate recently made an interesting comment to her, saying, “You were mostly an unknown in high school, but now you’re the most visible member.”
She cringes at that visibility, and the thought that she is a “leader” because she runs the site. But, this opportunity that landed in my wife’s lap is how God works. Now read this account of Paul in Acts 27:31-32,35:
Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.” So, the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it drift away… After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat.
How God Works
There’s an exciting progression here in Acts 27, regarding the shipwreck. Paul lives a holy, humble life that they witnessed. God gave supernatural insight to Paul, which Paul shares with the crew. Paul does not pull back from the leadership that God gave him with the crew and with the Roman soldiers. In fact, God engendered Paul to people of authority. And, when things got tough, it was Paul, and the God Paul served that they trusted.
For the centurion to not kill all the prisoners, as Rome law called for, but to trust Paul, even over the sailors, is an excellent testimony to the rapid credibility Paul gained with the people on the ship.
God gave Paul opportunities to demonstrate God’s love, long-suffering, and miracles, so the centurion, especially, put his trust in Paul and the God Paul served. Paul has already established a “witness” to these men. So, giving thanks in front of them was a logical continuation.
Hey, the Leader is You
God still uses this same process with His children. You may be just a member of a Sunday School class, or Parent / Teach association, or perhaps a member of a local book club. If a severe problem arises – lack of funds, theft, loss of a leader – don’t be surprised if God selects you to lead the members out of the difficulty.
Your consistent walk with Jesus, openly, so other members see Him in you lays your ministry’s foundation. Your acute awareness of the Holy Spirit’s voice in you will enable you to hear God’s guidance for you. And your confidence in God’s willingness and ability to deliver your cohort from damage, danger, or loss enables you to pray fervently, so they see their victory is from the God you serve.
Be ready at all times, for you never know when God’s call will come to you.
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We Need Special Times With God
What a joy it is when Jesus calls us “up” to Him for a time of learning and spiritual refreshing. These times may be during a church retreat, revival meetings, times when we fast and pray, or during small group meetings, to name a few. These special times are vital for us.
It’s no surprise that Jesus set this example for mountain top experiences. We can read about an instance in Mark 9:2-4 (ESV):
On the Mountain
After six days, Jesus took with Him Peter, James, and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There He was transfigured before them. His clothes became radiantly white, brighter than any launderer on earth could bleach them. And Elijah and Moses appeared before them, talking with Jesus. – Mark 9:2-4 (ESV)
Here’s an overview of what happened with Peter, James, and John when they came down from their mountain top experience with Jesus: “On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain… (Luke 9:37 ESV)” Jesus is confronted by a desperate Dad who is angry at His disciples – “…I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not (v40).” No doubt, the disciples were embarrassed.
Hang on! We’re not done yet. Then Jesus foretells His death to His disciples (Luke 9:43-45). Then an “argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest” (Luke 9:46 ESV). Then the Apostle John tells Jesus that they tried to stop a person from using Jesus’ name. John finds out that was the wrong approach (Luke 9:49-50). Next, a Samaritan village rejects Jesus (Luke 9:51-55). The ninth chapter of Luke wraps up with three different people half-heartedly asking Jesus if they could join His disciples.
It must have been a rough reentry for the Apostles Peter, James, and John. Having a bumpy reentry when you come down from a Spiritual mountain top experience is very common. The enemy knows our hearts and minds are on what we’ve just experienced; that’s when he often bombards us in an attempt to trip us up.
I pray that we all seek alone times with Father God, and I pray we watch our step during our reentry into our daily lives.
Several times in my life, I have been out of work. My career was designing and manufacturing electronic / computer products which other companies marketed and sold. As you might guess, my skillset had a minimal market back when very few people even knew what a computer was.
One of these times, when I had no work, I went to the State Employment office to apply for any job they had. I spent an hour or so waiting to speak with an employment agent. When I gave her my resume and told her what I did, I could tell she wanted to help me, but she couldn’t understand the words coming out of my mouth. IC’s and printed circuits and schematics and such. Finally, she said she would put my name on file. Then she politely ended my brief interview.
Doesn’t God Care?
I had prayed for several weeks, asking God to bring in or lead me to a new business opportunity. Nothing. Finally, I began praying for employment. I checked with some companies that I knew and came up dry. Finally, I surrendered my will; I stopped telling God what He needed to do. I asked Him to provide and promised I’d accept whatever that was. So, I was surprised when the employment agent didn’t find any job for which I could apply.
I remember walking down the stairs, opening the door and walking outside. I was confused. As I meandered toward the crosswalk, I heard a lady’s voice behind me. I stopped. Turning around, I was surprised to see the agent with whom I had just been talking.
She was running after me! A company just called in a job opening, and it sounded like it might be a fit for me. She handed me the name and phone number. Yes, I got the job and worked there for several years. I learned so much during that time. They even paid me to write an operating system which was a big deal back then.
During the increasingly desperate days that led up to my new job, Jesus was with me each day. The Holy Spirit was at work, creating a Divine appointment between the company that had a job opening and me.
Not a single day was a waste. Every person that attempted to make me give up hope was actually opening the ear of God to my plea, for I refused to speak faithless words. I determined to live what the Holy Spirit inspired Peter to write in 1 Peter 3:10-12 (ESV):
For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
God’s Love For You Is Immeasurable
God loves you. If you are a child of His, then He is eager to answer your prayer. Proverbs 3:5-6 is still true:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths
If you have a need, trust Jesus. Lay down your burden and take the one He gives you. And, as God said in 1 Thessalonians 5 (MSG): Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.
Our world is teaming with seasons. Our first thought, when we hear the word “season” is probably spring, summer, fall, and winter. (I’m NOT talking about food!) However, in Alaska there is a salmon season, in New England there is the maple sugaring season, in the tropics there is a dry season, in America’s Southwest there is the North American monsoon season, and of course there is baseball season, football (all kinds) season, basketball season, and on and on. In the Old Testament there was even a season when kings went off to war.
One thing that all seasons have in common is that the season has something uniquely, abundantly available. It might be other kings to fight or other sports teams to play. It might be winter snow, fish, syrup, sun or rain. Whatever the season, only during that season is that thing available in abundance.
When Christians discuss their walk with Jesus we often discover that there are seasons in our life in Christ. There will be “seasons of prayer” when we think we’ve prayed for five minutes and it has been 50 minutes. At other times it may be the reverse. There are times when we are in spiritual battles and other times when our briefest, whispered prayer is resoundingly answered by our Heavenly Father.
I often wish God would share His calendar with me. It would be so nice to open my Google Calendar and see, “Your season of spiritual warfare begins next week.”
However, of all the seasons in all the aspects of life, in all the world, there is no season more important than the one referenced in Isaiah 55:6-7 (ESV):
6 “Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
7 let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
Of all the spiritual benefits with which God desires to bless people, none is as great as salvation. However, even salvation has a season. For we know the last verses of the parable of the ten virgins says, “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” (Matthew 25:11-13)
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